Now that we’ve gotten the obvious out the way when discussing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we can dig a bit deeper. SPOILERS ahead.
This movie was a breath of fresh air with the young, new trio of Finn, Poe, and Rey. They had their own unique personalities and actually talked like normal people. I’m really excited to see what happens to them. I also LOVED Ben Solo’s major, major Zuko Book 1 vibes. There’s a lot of great stuff here. But these characters are not who destroyed me.
It was these two:
Perhaps this should come as no surprise, because I made it clear before that my “shipping aesthetic” seems to be a princess in an actual position of power, who puts her work before everything as a way of hiding from her emotional baggage and internalized guilt, and is clearly in love with someone who on the surface tries to be the “aloof, cool badass,” but is actually this ball of mush who will chase the princess around just to try and get her to say something nice about them.
I have a specific taste, okay?!
And this is actually the result of another bizarre preference of mine: the Martells.
The Martells are from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, and their family drama serves as a major subplot in the most recent two books. A lot of people focus on their “plot function,” or write them off completely because “too many new players,” but I instead like to focus on their Shakespearean flaws, their internalized guilt, and their clear love for one other, despite years of shitty communication and hurt. If you want to read the down-and-dirty about the Dornish arc in the books and how the show is irrelevant, please read point #2 here, or we also have an in-depth analysis for you.
Not that long ago, fellow Fandomentals author, Julia (another unabashed Dorne-stan), and I came up with something called the “Martell Criteria,” where we listed 9 central characteristics of this family, because we realized anyone possessing a large number of these traits in any piece of media were likely to become our favorites.
Among these characteristics are the following:
- Internalized Guilt
- Genuine and deep affection for the family
- Creating more conflict by trying to avoid it
- Self-destructive behavior
- Difficulty in relationships
And all of this was palpable with Leia and Han’s relationship in the original trilogy, as Julia smartly explained already. Empire Strikes Back was rather baldly about Leia’s commitment issues, not Han’s, and it was Leia who was putting up the walls and creating the emotional distance, not Han. Because she’s Leia Martell. Wait…does this make Luke the Quentyn of the family?
Anyway, here’s the beautiful, beautiful thing: The Force Awakens not only confirmed all of this, but it put the Martell-esque family drama FRONT AND CENTER.
Ben Solo turned to the dark side, or is at least trying his damned hardest to do so. Luke blamed himself for this and ran off to hide in exile. Leia blamed herself for sending Ben to Luke in the first place, which she also cited as the reason for why she “lost” Han, and she definitely blamed herself for Luke’s subsequent disappearance (“I was a fool to think that I could try and find him and fix this”). And Han blamed himself for not being a good enough father to Ben in the first place.
However, Han (old buddy) isn’t a Martell, just a Martell spouse. And though the internalized guilt-off can be infectious, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that he also seemed a slight bit resentful when he was describing how Ben’s training with Luke went south. Almost as if he blamed his brother-in-law to some extent, which is, frankly, understandable.
But by doing so, Han broke rule #1 of House Martell: you don’t say bad things about Martells to other Martells. Only Martells get to say such things, but the second you volunteer something of your own HOW DARE YOU. Leia, of course, needed to continue to beat herself up over what happened, so the fact that Han wanted to take some responsibility himself, or that he wanted to place any blame on Luke…big no-no. So she did what she’s always done: she buried herself in work (and we know this included her obsession with finding her brother again in a desperate attempt to fix “her mistakes”) and pushed Han away. So he returned to his old vices as a result. I sincerely doubt they “officially” broke up, because that would have required an emotionally honest conversation, and Martells need at least a decade to work up to that.
Oh, I should note too, that in her refusal to hold Han in any way accountable, Leia was inadvertently infantilizing him. She was the one who insisted that Ben go train with Luke (because duties are super important to Martells), and that already had the tacit implication that Han was not a suitable father-figure for this force-sensitive wunderkind. There’s also Leia’s complicated relationship with the force: she seems to fear its power a bit, especially the dark side (“he has too much Vader in him”), and who’s to fucking blame her? Her father literally tortured her and then restrained her as Tarkin blew up her entire planet. So she mainly blames herself for what happened to Ben, but then she secondarily blames “the force”—her genes—on top of that. So as a result, she accidentally put Han at the kid’s table.
But honestly, there was no other way this could have played out. As soon as I learned that Han and Leia were broken up and clearly not communicating with each other, it was like, “yeah, of course this is what happened.”
And of course Threepio was still cock-blocking them.
Here’s the beautiful thing though: Martells are frustrating, through and through, but when they finally are in a position to show some vulnerability, it’s the most goddamn moving thing on this planet. For Leia, it took what? 10-15 years of shouldering all hurt and responsibility? Not to mention, it was in the face of death.
Han volunteered to go to Death Star 3.0 to “save Rey,” but let’s be real, we know it was 99% about Ben. He wanted to actually fix something for once, because goddamnit that’s his son and that means something. But this time, Leia didn’t stop him. In fact, her line “Luke is a Jedi, but you are his father,” was quite emotionally poignant. It was her saying, “you do matter here,” and it was no coincidence that it came right after her sad admission that she pushed Han away the day she sent Ben off.
What’s more, Leia’s “I always hated watching you leave” was again, an admission of love. Every time she pushed Han away it hurt her, and it certainly hurt him, which she recognized. This is why her line, “then you’re as good as gone, aren’t you?” from The Empire Strikes Back was basically her saying, “I fucked this up, didn’t I?” And the “I love you”/ “I know” exchange wasn’t Han being a giant asshole, but it was Han asserting that he always understood where she was coming from. And he said it with tears in his fucking eyes, because it was the recognition of something that had caused them both pain, but that they were finally in a place to move past just as he was about to probably die.
So here Leia is, however many decades later, reaffirming her love for him, and once again taking ownership of the hurt. To which Han responded, “
I know That’s why I did it; so you’d miss me,” in what was absolute confirmation that his “flight risk” vibe in the original trilogy was a farce. He was super committed to Leia back then, and only threatened to leave because he wanted to get her to admit her feelings. Seriously, go watch this extended scene; “your big opportunity is flying out of here, sweetheart.”
Then they hugged, as only two people with decades of emotional baggage, and fierce love, between them can. They also probably both suspected, on some level, that this might have been their last chance to do so.
And it was.
This movie fucking destroyed me, and now I command you to drown in Martell feels too.